Here's the most telling bit:
It was only later [after 1964 when Byrd filibustered the Civil Rights Act) that racism became a liability for ambitious Democratic politicians, and it was only later that Byrd became a civil-rights advocate of sorts.
I say "of sorts" because Byrd's 832-page exercise in gasbaggery includes a creepy passage in which he describes white ethnics as "former minorities" who "sought no special status," implicitly contrasting them with modern minorities who "push and shove and demand something for nothing." When Byrd broke the Senate's longevity record, I poked fun at that passage along with others that decried "multiculturalism" and compared cities to "the jungles of Africa." But if Byrd's memoirs suggested some lingering discomfort with diversity, they revealed a much more visceral distaste for modernity, a fierce nostalgia for "the days of my boyhood," when America was great, kids had manners, the funny papers were funny and even Coca-Cola was "a more zestful and invigorating drink."
Uh, yeah — it was made with cocaine back then.
But the bottom line is that Byrd deserved it.